Small Producers of Urrao

  • Country
  • State
  • Municipality
  • Altitude
    1,900 - 2,100m above sea level
  • Variety
  • Processing
    Extended Fermentation
  • Farmers
    12 independent farmers in Urrao
  • Average Farm Size
    1.5 hectares

Perfumed aroma, with stewed plum, walnut, dark chocolate and black tea in the cup. Syrupy sweet with a lingering finish.

This coffee was grown and processed by twelve smallholder producers that are situated around the town and municipality of Urrao, located in the high mountains of Western Antioquia, Colombia. The producers are Alexandar Zapata Jr., Alexandar Zapata, Arsenio Moreno, Eduardo Vargas, Gustavo Hernandez, Jairo Zapata, Luis Alvaro, Juan Moreno, Dionisio Vargas, Yessica Moreno and Luis Montoya.

Urrao is a unique and special coffee growing region, located in the valley of Rio Penderisco, at around 1,900m above sea level. Unlike other producing regions in Colombia, which are characterised by deep canyons and massive, rugged mountains, Urrao is covered in rolling green hills, calm pastures and beautiful rivers that snake through the landscape. This geography guarantees cool temperatures year-round, typically only reaching between 12-25 degrees. This cool climate is ideal for the slow ripening of coffee cherries, leading to denser beans and a sweeter, more complex cup profile.

Until recently Urrao was overlooked as a coffee-producing region and dismissed by many as being too cold for good production. There is still very little coffee produced in the area, despite it being some of the most fertile land in Antioquia. Many farmers complement the income they make from coffee by growing “lulu”, a type of passionfruit that tastes similar to a kiwi fruit and is incredibly popular in Colombia. Coffee grown in Urrao is slowly becoming recognised and sought after for its high quality and complexity.

Farms in Urrao are very small – averaging just 1.5 hectares – and are traditionally farmed. Fertilisation occurs around three times a year, usually after manual weeding, and pesticides are rarely used. The coffee is selectively hand-harvested, with most labour being provided by the farmers and their families.


Antioquia is located in central North-Western Colombia. Coffee was introduced to the region in the latter part of the 19thcentury. Since then, this mountainous, fertile department has 128,000 hectares of coffee that is produced by a mix of large estates and tiny farms.

Antioquia only recently became more accessible to specialty coffee buyers – largely thanks to a transformation of the department led by Sergio Fajardo, who was the governor of the department in 2012-2016. Sergio transformed Antioquia’s capital city, Medellín, from a violent and dangerous place to a world-class tourist destination with a strong economy. Coffee has played a significant role in this transformation, and as access to many producers has improved, the region has become one of Colombia’s most important and celebrated coffee-producing areas.

This coffee is sourced by our export partners, Pergamino, who work with around 50 small, independent farmers in and around the town of Urrao. Pergamino has done a lot to help promote commercialisation of specialty coffee throughout Antioquia and have actively been working to source and support coffee producers in regions where there is a high potential for quality, but that historically have not had access to specialty buyers.

During harvest, the farmers deliver small lots (around 100-150kg) of dried parchment to Pergamino’s warehouse every 2-3 weeks. Upon delivery, a sample of the dried parchment is milled and assessed for physical attributes, including uniformity of size, presence of defects, moisture content and seed to hull ratio. If the coffee passes the physical assessment it is accepted and the farmer receives their first payment for the coffee, calculated by the weight delivered and a base rate related to the physical quality of the parchment. The coffee is then cupped and assessed for sensory attributes. After being accepted by the team in Urrao the coffees are transported to Pergamino’s QC lab in Medellin, where they are further assessed by an expert team of cuppers. Each lot is carefully evaluated and, based on the cup score and profile, the coffee is sorted into different grades of quality and combined into exportable sized lots. Feedback on each lot is relayed back to the producer and after it has sold a second payment is made to the producer according to premium the coffee attracted.

The team at Pergamino cups through hundreds of small lots at their QC lab in Medellin, to select the coffees that are blended together into this special regional lot. The coffees included were chosen for their outstanding cup profile and distinct regional characteristics.


The coffees in this lot were selectively hand-harvested, with most labour being provided by the farmers and their families. They were processed with an extended fermentation, as part of the washing method, at each farm’s ‘micro-beneficio’ (mill).

The coffee was pulped using a small manual or electric pulper and then placed into a fermentation tank. Because of the cooler climate in Urrao, producers tend to ferment the coffees for longer than usual and will often blend several days’ worth of pickings over a 3-5 day period. Every day, freshly picked cherry is pulped and added to the mix, which lowers the pH level and – along with the cooler temperatures – allows for an extended fermentation process. This fermentation process contributes to a vibrant, winey acidity in the coffee’s cup profile.

Following fermentation, the coffee was washed using clean water from the Rio Penderisco and then carefully sun-dried over 10–18 days. Most farmers in the area use the “Casa Elba” system for drying, where parchment is laid out to dry on rooftop patios (usually on top of the farmhouse). A retractable roof on a pulley system can be pulled over the coffee to protect it during rainy weather or to slow down the drying process when it is very hot and sunny. Rakes are used to turn the coffee regularly during the drying stage, to ensure even drying.

Once dry, the coffee was delivered to Pergamino’s warehouse, where it was cupped and graded, and then rested in parchment until it was ready for export.

Read more about our Colombian export partner, Pergamino, here.